You stop fearing the devil when you’re holding his hand…
Nothing much exciting rolls through Violet White’s sleepy, seaside town…until River West comes along. River rents the guesthouse behind Violet’s crumbling estate, and as eerie, grim things start to happen, Violet begins to wonder about the boy living in her backyard. Is River just a crooked-smiling liar with pretty eyes and a mysterious past? Or could he be something more? Violet’s grandmother always warned her about the Devil, but she never said he could be a dark-haired boy who takes naps in the sun, who likes coffee, who kisses you in a cemetery...who makes you want to kiss back. Violet’s already so knee-deep in love, she can’t see straight. And that’s just how River likes it.
Blending faded decadence and the thrilling dread of gothic horror, April Genevieve Tucholke weaves a dreamy, twisting contemporary romance, as gorgeously told as it is terrifying—a debut to watch.
This was a difficult book to pin down and kind of convoluted to follow. We only see the story from Violet's side, which suits the story just fine for the mystery element, but the timeline is so compressed that I found it difficult to believe. In just a few short weeks (I think 3 at most) she takes in a sketchy boarder, falls in love, takes in the sketchy boarder's equally sketchy brother, witnesses several deaths, and discovers way too many family secrets.
It starts off easily enough with a solid background that, while eccentric, is doable. Two almost-adult fraternal teenage twins living in their family's run-down estate while their parents are traveling Europe as artists. The logic of needing a boarder to help cover expenses is normal enough, but that's about where it stops. River is almost too unique for this story. Between his mannerisms, attire, & ability, he's just a bit overdone. His brother Neely is the same way, minus an ability (unless smashing people's faces in counts). It just seemed like they were trying too hard to stand out.
I also had some trouble with all the different story lines. It felt like they were picked up when convenient & then ignored when they caused any sort of ripple in the character interactions. And those were peculiar as well. Sometimes it seemed that there were too many people in the story that I couldn't necessarily tell who was important and what story lines might emerge. Usually that's a good thing in a mystery/suspense type book, but for this one it was just information overload.
To be quite honest I think all of that could have been forgiven had it not been for the climax. That whole scene felt like it was grasping at straws. I know this is the first in a new series, so it's setting something larger up, but it just felt hokey and kitschy.
I will say this, I did like the character dynamics. They were an illustration in contrasts since almost everyone had an opposing personality within someone else. The setting was fairly well constructed & suited the story's needs quite well. But I honestly can't see myself wanting to read anything more of this series.
Have any of you read it? Did I miss something critical or do you think it's just not my kind of book?
ARC graciously provided by Around the World ARC Tours